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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canadian serial killer Robert "Willie" Pickton will not face a trial on his remaining 20 murder counts until an appeal of his first six murder convictions is decided, a judge ruled on Monday.
The appeals court is not expected to rule until at least mid-2009, and Pickton -- who is serving a sentence of life in prison -- had complained that a long delay of his second trial would violate his right to a fair and timely hearing.
Prosecutors, who have also appealed portions of the first trial, had argued it was impossible to hold the second trial now because the decision of the appeals court would determine what evidence they could present.
Any decision by the appeals court could also be appealed to Canada's Supreme Court.
A judge split the original case against the Vancouver-area pig farmer into two trials out of fear that hearing all 26 murder charges at one time would make the gruesome case last so long it would be impossible to keep a jury in place.
Police said Pickton lured women to his pig farm in Port Coquitlam with promises of money and drugs, killed them, cut up the bodies in the slaughterhouse and disposed of the remains using the pigs and a rendering plant.
It is unclear if prosecutors will ever press the remaining 20 murder counts if the first six convictions are upheld because it would not add to his time in prison. Canada does not have the death penalty.
Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing by Rob Wilson